“The CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) Annual Gala was an evening of Hope and Joy. I had the opportunity to speak with Lorena. Lorena has been trafficked twice from the Philippines to Saudi Arabia and Los Angeles. I could see the joy in her eyes, when she spoke about being reunited with her children and the hope she carries in her heart for a better life in the USA.
I had the opportunity to thank Lisa Ling for her investigative reporting of Human Trafficking around the globe” so reports Sylvia Valdez who attended our RSC Human Trafficking Meeting in Nigeria last September.
Two of our lay colleagues and sisters supported and celebrated CAST, the human trafficking coalition in Los Angeles that is upheld as a model for other cities. Dennis Weidman, part of our human trafficking committee in Garden Grove Parish, as well as Sylvia Valdez attended this event as well as Sisters Michelle Hetherington and Bernadette Moran. The California/Venezuela Region of the Sisters of Charity have developed a vision and plan that supports this coalition as well as including our lay colleagues in this critical work.
Here are first hand quotes from their experience of meeting the women who had been trafficked, rescued and are now empowered to advocate for the rights of others in slavery.
Dennis Weidman: “Having been part of the CAST’s 13th Annual Gala from Slavery to Freedom held on May 12 was an awesome, inspiring, and heart-felt experience. It really helped me to see and focus on a much bigger picture of what has already been accomplished and will be done throughout his year. One of several very special gifts for the evening was having Ima, an Indonesian woman, seated at our table. She is a survivor who was enslaved for more than three years as a domestic servant in Los Angeles. During our conversation I shared with her about the two times I spent in Indonesia on missionary work, and how prevalent slavery and human trafficking was there, as well as many of the other places I have been privileged to visit. With her profound story and recollection of my missionary work in Indonesia, it brought home the reality even more so of how slavery and trafficking of all humans must be totally abolished here in the USA and worldwide. We Thank You Lord for all these gifts, and please continue to lead us to your justice and the freedom you desire for all your children. PTL, TTL, and BTL—now, always, and forever.”
Udaya Kanthi Salgadu, a trafficking survivor, playwright and now member of CAST’s Survivor Advisory Caucus received the 2011 Seeds of Renewal Award. Kanthi was trafficked at the age of 19 to Los Angeles and enslaved for two years. She was rescued by immigration agents. She wrote a wonderful play based on her experience, “Letters From My Mother” which was performed in Los Angeles.
Sr. Michelle Hetherington said that this event lit her passion to do something about human trafficking. “It was an honor and a privilege for me to attend the 13th Annual Gala Dinner for CAST on May 12, 2011. I was greatly impressed by the young women who are active in CAST as advocates for the survivors. I was also enthralled by the courage and determination of the women who are survivors. During the meal I had the pleasure of speaking with some of these incredible women. They spoke of their ordeal, an extremely painfully experience but they were also full of hope and joy for their future lives. I came away from the evening feeling renewed and enthusiastic to learn more about slavery and trafficking.”
CNN were presented with the 2011 Media Integrity Award and have committed to the Freedom Project, continuing education on human trafficking throughout their programming, as well as directing viewers to ways they can help support services for trafficked persons and get involved.
Sr. Bernadette Moran said: “What touched me most at the CAST event, was the commitment of CNN. As a group, they agreed to give priority to promoting awareness of Human Trafficking for one full year. In making this decision they agreed to focus much of their reporting on this horrific crime. In fact, choosing this focus was affirmed by all the staff as definitely the way to go. This commitment touched my heart deeply.”
Christian Brothers Investment Services, which manages finances for religious congregations, including our own, were awarded the 2011 Modern-Day Abolitionist Founders Award for their socially responsible investment policies and for supporting human trafficking legislation and putting pressure on companies to adopt codes of conduct.
Eric Garcetti, President of the Los Angeles City Council is a strong advocate for trafficked persons and was one Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Amy Wakeland was the other MC and is well known for her contributions to women’s issues, especially the elimination of sexual violence in all its forms.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, film celebrities, were present but humbly took a back seat from the spotlight.